A bike can change the world

HG Wells once said “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race”.

While this may not be a sentiment shared by all there us no denying, in my opinion, that the speed of a bicycle and the smiles shared between cyclists while out on a trip signify much about the right way to be – making time and sharing the world in a pleasant fashion with our fellow human beings.

To say a bike can change the world is a bold claim and this blog sets out to show how this bike trip is aiming to make a difference.

I didn’t set out to do this ride as a fundraiser. It is about a journey I wish to make. However, as someone who has worked in the not-for-profit sector for most of my working career I have been privileged to come across many individuals and organisations aiming to make a real difference to the lives of others. Many people the world over are now familiar with magazines sold by the homeless to help them get back on their feet – a hand-up not a hand-out. That’s what the Big Issue’s about.

Another initiative set up to help the homeless, by the same social entrepreneur, Mel Young, is the Homeless World Cup. Having identified football as a keen interest among many who find themselves on the street it now uses this activity to help people through recovery, develop team spirit and individual pride. Every year, from local street leagues, a team is selected to represent their country in the Homeless World Cup football tournament It’s a major feat of organisation and dedication – co-ordinating a global event, obtaining visas and of course training on behalf of participants.

I’ve chosen to work with the Homeless World Cup to raise funds for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly I like the honesty and the outputs they achieve. It’s not an organisation with large numbers of staff but it is an organisation that changes lives for hundreds of people. Secondly, it is of course an initiative that runs across the world – much the same as the bike ride. In 2012 72 National Teams will participate as the Homeless World Cup goes to Mexico. Lastly, while being a global activity the organisation is led by a team in Edinburgh, just a mile down the road.

So, that’s it. I hope you will feel able to support their work. It will be great encouragement to me as I constantly get back on the saddle and with a target of raising £5 per kilometre we do of course hope it will make a significant difference to many people. Go on… click on the link, be a part of it and give me no excuses for backing out!!

http://www.justgiving.com/naomischallenge

You can also text the code NAOM50 £5 (or amount you wish to donate-between £1 and £10) to 70070

The route around the globe

As I’ve been talking about this trip the natural question many people want to know is of course the route… what is the plan? Well, while details are still to be planned we – yep, I think I now have a companion -  do now have a rough outline.

The original world cycle challenge followed Mark Beaumont’s route around the globe – an 18,000 mile journey over 9 months. The route would go through 20 countries leaving London and travelling through Europe, Iran, Pakistan, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and back through Europe. It was a route that had been selected for speed, following pretty much the exact route Mark had taken as part of his Guinness world record back in 2008. It was to be an exciting trip and the sections through Iran and Pakistan were of particular interest to me.

However, as that trip was cancelled and the possibility of planning my own route was then an option this also provided the chance to look at the route again. To decide where one would like to cycle if choosing a route that was not based on world record rules and the key driver of speed. Sounds simple eh?

Of course, it started with the wish list and was then whittled down on the basis of round the world flight tickets, climate, cost and common sense. Further, by this point someone was interested in the trip too and so compromise also needed to be added to the equation. However, given as my wish list covered pretty much everywhere then looking at the trip from a travel fatigue and companionship perspective were now more important.

Instead then I looked at ways to plan meeting up with others or take the ease from map reading and language at strategic points. While Iran and adventure gave me a real buzz I also wanted to feel safe given we were now travelling independently i.e. without the security advisors and 24/7 support back in London. I was sure that my parents too would be pleased I was taking this into account!

So, following much discussion and research here it is…. , still subject to detailed planning, VISAs and availability…. my 20,000km route.

The trip will start in the USA, heading down the Pacific Coast Highway, a gentle ease in before heading to Japan for our first delve into travel with an obvious language barrier. The original trip set out to be physically challenging and spurred on by this we also decided to add two more demanding parts to the journey. Given we will also now be lugging all our own kit we plan to join organised trips for additional company support and bag carriage for the two tougher sections!

The first of these comes after Japan as we head to China and will then cycle the Friendship Highway from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Going via Everest base camp and cycling at altitude through the Himalayas will certainly not be for the faint-hearted. The reward will of course be stunning viewpoints and curry on arrival in India. We’re still looking at the India leg but plan to head from there to South East Asia. I’ve cycled through Vietnam before and look forward to seeing more from this part of the world.

We expect the journey so far will be the first 5 months of the trip and in December are looking to head to New Zealand for Christmas and Sydney for New Year. Well, it’s important to plan in some fizz for new year and this will be a well deserved “rest” before we plan to join a tour cycling from Cairo to Capetown. Africa is somewhere I have never traveled to and the thought of going to this part of the world, not part of the original cycle challenge, is quickly becoming a part of the trip I am really excited about. The journey through Africa will itself take 5 months and as that trip comes to an end so too the overall ride will be drawing to a close. Finishing off with a poottle through Europe seems simple to say at this point…. I wonder how simple it may feel come May?

Structuring training around personality and physical capabilities

As I prepare for my ride I’m busy reading of trips others have achieved, planning routes, discussing ideas with the potential companion, looking at fundraising as well as costing the trip, selling a house and planning to be away from home for a while. More on the above to be revealed… well, a girl has to tease!

Among the preparation there is of course also the inevitable training. Given I enjoy my bike and gym sessions this should of course not be too bad though I was pleased to read the following in The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling this week … “ Perhaps the worst thing any cyclist can do is try and duplicate the training of superior riders. This is a shortcut to disaster, not success. Training must be structured around your personality and physical capabilities.”

On Sunday I had fully intended on joining the monthly Spokes ride, leaving at the usual departure time of 10am outside Usher Hall in Edinburgh. However, those of you that know me well will realise this falls at exactly the same time as The Archers omnibus.

So, in accordance with taking the advice noted above, I have remained true to my personality and physical capabilities. I do really enjoy going out with friends (watching the rugby in the pub on Saturday) and taking in a good bit of radio 4 on a Sunday morning. I was physically incapable of getting out of bed at 830!!

While I’m not quite sure that’s exactly what the book meant I did eventually get out on Sunday afternoon and 43ish miles, a flask of tea and 3 hours later I came home feeling satisfied. It had been a glorious afternoon and despite numb toes I was pleased to feel the positive benefit of the daily spin classes.  I hope, as I get a chance next week while away to put some real miles in, that I can start to capitalise more on the intense spin sessions when putting the miles in for endurance.

As for The Archers I fell asleep, as per normal, just at the end, and woke to hear Denise Lewis providing inspiration on Desert Island Discs. While I’m not sure Whitney Houston is the record that spurs me on for the ride it was great to hear of her focus and drive. For my favourite track to sing on the bike I’ll stick to Bachelor Boy!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01bkylm/Desert_Island_Discs_Denise_Lewis/